Lessons from the Steel Mill
I grew up in Middletown, Ohio, which is so named because it is located between Cincinnati and Dayton on Interstate 75. When I was a kid, Middletown was a typical blue-collar, dirty, smelly, noisy rustbelt mill town with a population of 25,000 people. There were two large paper mills on one end of the town and a large steel mill on the other side of town. At that time, Armco Steel Corporation was the third-largest steel mill in the world taking up some 16 square miles of our city. It was like a city within a city with its hundreds of buildings and roads, and with its own police and fire crews, and railroad system.
I worked for two summers in the massive steel mill in my hometown – after my second and fourth years of college. During those summers, I learned how to make steel hard and how hard it was to make steel. But most importantly, I learned three lessons that I would use the rest of my life in my relationships and ministry.
The steel mill taught me to…
1. Pay attention to my surroundings.
Steel mills are dangerous places! You have to watch for holes, beams, machinery, furnaces, cranes, trains, and moving vehicles. You have to be mindful at all times of where you are, what and who is around you, and how to get where you need to go.
2. Do my job well.
Careless people cause crisis! Four men were killed in my department my second summer in the steel mill because the person responsible for filling up the massive molds with molten steel overfilled one of the molds. Then, the train carrying the massive molds full of molten steel ran over some debris, which caused the molten steel to spill onto a large puddle of water next to the train tracks. FYI: you can pour water on molten steel, but you cannot pour molten steel on water because it creates a miniature hydrogen bomb. The molten steel exploded shooting millions of hot bullets through four men who were waiting on the train to pass. Men died that day because one man wasn’t paying attention when he filled a mold. His carelessness caused a crisis!
3. Use tools properly.
Every tool, machine, and vehicle in the steel mill has to be used properly or things don’t get done and/or people get hurt. Tools have to be used in the right way to get the job done right!
I didn’t use a lot of power tools during my time in the steel mill because I was just a summer grunt, but I did get to use a high-pressure power washer for a week. This thing was not like the power washers you see people washing their cars with, it used a combination of hot water, steam, and high pressure to strip parts down to the bare metal. The machine was so powerful it could cut you in half! It needed to be controlled at all times and used properly or someone could die.
The three life lessons I learned in the steel mill have helped me in my marriage counseling. I teach singles they need to go into marriage with their eyes wide open – they need to be mindful of their surroundings. Marriage is the most complex and important human relationship on earth, so you better know where you are, who is next to you, and how to get where you need to go before you get married. Singles who go into marriage not seeing or understanding the issues that await them fail at marriage.
Some years ago, I sat down with a married couple in my office who was baffled why their “perfect – made in heaven” marriage was falling apart. The sad, frustrated couple didn’t know what to do to save their relationship. As I do with all the married couples that come to me for counseling, I began doing discovery. During my discovery process, I asked the couple how they met, got engaged, and entered marriage together. The couple told me how they saw each other at a work party and it was love at first sight. They talked, drank, danced, and then later jumped into bed together. Within a few days, the couple ran off to Vegas to elope. Things were great for a few weeks, then problems began to emerge in their thrown together relationship. After listening to the couple for 45 minutes complain about each other, I told them “You guys got exactly what you deserve.” “You jumped into the deep end without knowing how to swim!”
Singles thinking of getting married, need to go through pre-marital counseling so they see and understand the problems that await them in marriage. It is foolish to go into marriage blindly! You need to learn how to succeed at marriage before you say “I Do”!
I also teach singles thinking about marriage how to do their job well. Marriage is a partnership; it only works if both people in the relationship do their part. Men and women need to know how to play their role in marriage or they will cause a crisis in their relationship. The Apostle Paul explains this important truth in Ephesians 5:21-33. First, Paul tells husbands and wives to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Then, Paul tells husbands to love their wives and wives to respect their husbands. Why? So husbands and wives can feel love and respect.
“Each man must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.” Ephesians 5:33 NLT
Finally, I teach singles how to use tools like communication, confrontation, budgeting, and how to create and use priority lists to maintain and grow their relationship.
If you’re considering marriage, or you want to know how to greatly improve your marriage, I encourage you to purchase my book: The 10 Habits of Magnificent Marriages. It is available through Amazon.